Local finds teacher in hip-hop pioneer

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Cody Smith walked into Levelz on Feb. 18, oblivious that his life was about to change. He organized his records and prepared to open for KRS-One, juggling beats as DJ Cocheze.

Smith graduated from Steamboat Springs High School in 2003. He already had become a local deejay favorite, getting invited to open for major hip-hop acts that came through town. He assumed this was another one of those gigs.

But as he wound down his set, KRS-One bounded onto the stage, gave Smith a big hug and said, "Yo. Let's rock it."

DJ Cocheze didn't hesitate. He got behind his turntables and kept up with one of his idols.

"Deejaying is second nature for me," Smith said. "I'm in my element."

After the show, KRS-One invited Smith to finish the four dates of a Colorado tour with him, which he did. And at the end of the weekend, KRS-One approached Smith again.

He said, "I need a deejay right now. Can you leave your life in Colorado and go to Los Angeles?"

Without hesitating, Smith packed a bag of clothes, some records and headed to California, "not knowing what was next," he said.

Smith followed KRS-One through 40 tour dates in cities from Chicago to San Diego. When the tour ended in May, KRS-One again extended an invitation -- this time for a tour of Europe.

"I jumped on it," Smith said. "I'm 20 years old. I don't have anything holding me back.

"The American tour was just preparation for Europe. It was ridiculous. They really appreciate hip-hop over there more than they do here. One night in Berlin, we came out for four encores. They showed us mad love."

Smith is back in Steamboat taking a break and will perform on his home stage this weekend.

He plans to hit the road with KRS-One, or "Teach" as Smith calls him, again in the fall.

"I couldn't ask for a better teacher," Smith said. "He goes to colleges to speak about the history of hip-hop, and he talks about having the courage to be yourself and not being a slave to society."

KRS-One is the creator and leader of the Temple of Hiphop, an organization formed for the preservation of hip-hop culture -- deejaying, breaking, graffiti, emceeing.

"He dropped out of high school and lived on the streets and went to the library to teach himself," Smith said. "Then you see him speaking at Oxford."

There's a Chinese saying, "When the student is ready, the teacher will come," Smith said. "I was ready. I've stopped asking myself how this happened and now I'm just self-actualizing where I am."

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